Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Florida's Oysters and Turtles

Did you ever eat a raw oyster? We did! At first we didn’t want to try one but then we remembered that when we travel it is important to try new things including new food. We tried them and loved them! We were in Apalachicola, which is famous for their oysters. We went out on a boat where we learned how the fishermen have been harvesting oysters for hundreds of years. It is hard work and they have to go out in all kinds of weather. They use long poles that are hooked together. The ends look like rakes. With them they are able to scoop up clumps of oysters. They have to make sure they are the legal size. If they are too small they throw them back. Oysters like to live where fresh water from rivers meets the salt water so Apalachicola is perfect. When feeding, the oyster can pump and filter at least 25 gallons of water in 24 hours. That seems amazing because they are not very big. They are about the size an orange cut in half. It takes about six years for them to be big enough to harvest. We were surprised to learn that from 1880 to 1920, New York State was the oyster capital of the United States. There is a village on Long Island called Oyster Bay, now we understand why. We were amazed at the piles of oyster shells. Some piles were as big as a barn. We learned that the city of Crisfield, Maryland is built on a foundation of oyster shells. In Apalachicola they put most of the shells back in the water to start new oyster beds.
Turtles are another amazing animal we learned about in Franklin County, Florida. We went to hear Bruce Drye talk about turtles. He is specially trained to handle turtles. He told us that sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth. When the loggerhead turtle hatches it is only about two inches long but the adult loggerhead sea turtles are among the larger of the sea turtle species and weigh an average of 275 pounds. Loggerhead turtles don’t have teeth; instead they have powerful jaws enable them to crush and ingest clams, crabs and other shellfish. There are several volunteer groups that try to protect the sea turtles and their nests. "Sea turtles migrate between nesting areas and foraging areas, often traveling hundreds, even thousands of miles to reach a desired location. Some individual turtles that nest in Franklin County may travel as far as the coast of Central or South America to forage before returning to nest," Mr. Drye explained. He also said, "Turtles are not decision makers. They operate on instinct so if people leave the lights on in their house the baby turtles head toward the house instead to the sea and if there are beach chairs and other things in the way they get trapped." Our villa on the beach on St. George Island had instructions about what to do to protect the turtles during nesting time.

We found out something else interesting in Apalachicola and it had nothing to do with turtles. On an historic tour we learned that in 1837 the Orman House was built near Syracuse then unassembled for shipping. It traveled by sailing ship to Apalachicola where it was reassembled. We learn such interesting things, don’t we?